Harrisburg board draws lots, awaits appeal

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Five Harrisburg school board members drew lots in special meeting Thursday night, Jan. 13, for four positions on a new Harrisburg interim board formed after the state Board of Education voted March 8 of last year to merge the Weiner school district with the Harrisburg district.

But it is yet to be determined if that drawing of lots, based on a court ruling by Circuit Judge John Fogleman, will have any bearing on the eventual composition of the board.

Fogleman ordered the drawing of lots after he ruled in November that Harrisburg school board members Frankie Lindsey, Barry Massengill, Greg Reddmann and Fonda Eaton violated Arkansas law when they voted board member Byron Neal off the board in a March 9 meeting which Neal was unable to attend due to work.

Neal had contacted the other board members to let them know he would not be present.

According to Arkansas Code Annotated 6-13-1412, a board can be reduced only by voluntary resignation by a member or members or by the drawing of lots.

Fogleman's decision is being appealed by the school district, and it is not clear when a decision on the appeal will be made, though it is expected within 90 days.

How an interim board would be composed has been a great concern since the state board ordered the merger, to comply with a state law that requires Arkansas school districts to maintain an enrollment of at least 350 students. The Weiner district had fallen below that number.

Todd Bartholomew represents Weiner on the interim board.

During the Jan. 13 meeting, Lindsey, board president, drew one suit from a deck of cards and he, along with Neal, Reddmann, Massengill and Eaton, blindly selected cards to determine the order in which the lots would be drawn, with the person closest to the ace card going first.

Once the order was established, Lindsey then got five index cards and placed an "X" on one card to establish an "odd man out." The cards then were placed in a coffee container from which the cards were drawn.

There was plenty of tension in the air as the board members began drawing cards. Massengill drew the card with the "X," but until the appeal of Fogleman's decision is heard, no one will know if it will be Massengill or Neal who will leave the board.

"The appealete court gave us a stay for 90 days for the appeal to be expedited," Massengill said. "This board is in a situation that has never happened. Mr. Reddmann, Mr. Lindsey and I agree that we want what is best for the children of this school district. We don't want to go down without a fight though."

Harrisburg Superintendent Danny Sample said he doesn't have an expected day for the appeal to be heard but does hope it is within 90 days.

"But if the district loses the appeal, Mr. Massengill will be removed from the board and Mr. Neal will take his spot," Sample said. "The board will not be effected until after the appeals process though."

Neal said he was pleased with the results. "I would prefer not to further the appeal process," Neal said. "They are free to do as they wish though. This was a good night for me though. Obviously, I am pleased."

In other business, the board agreed to make changes so the Weiner and Harrisburg student handbooks will be consistent.

The board also agreed to extend the contracts of central office employees.

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